Although Russian attacks have bombarded Odesa, Ukraine's third largest city, since the earliest days of the 2022 war, learning continues at the Odesa Theological Seminary, a Mennonite Mission Network partner.
The important things we do in life should not be easily discarded, even in times of war. We, at Odesa Theological Seminary (OTS) in Ukraine, believe that education is among the most important things we do in life. This is why we continue to teach, and students continue to study. However, these days, we are looking for ways to minimize risks, and we are working to determine the best options for our students.
One option is to organize learning sessions at extension sites rather than on our main campus. In early October, we organized such a session for the second-year students of our Ministry to Teenagers program in the western part of Ukraine.
During a visit to Uzhgorod, a city near Ukraine's Hungarian and Slovakian borders, students took program coordinator Andryi Svistun to a local Christian campsite in the forest. More than 60 people, displaced from the eastern part of Ukraine, are staying there.
"I was impressed with that beautiful and peaceful place," Svistun said. "I wished we could have one of our program sessions there! To my surprise, the students answered straight away: 'Let's do it!"
When Svistun articulated this idea to seminary leadership, they supported it. All the students remaining in Ukraine were able to attend this session. The others, who were abroad, joined online. An added benefit was that the non-Christian residents of the camp were able to listen in! We had a week of great learning, fellowship and service to those who had fled their homes.
We are impressed with our students. Despite the challenging situation, they not only continue to study during the war, but they also continue serving others. Many of them are actively involved in volunteer work; caring for soldiers, those who are fleeing the violence and people who live close to the frontlines of the war, among others. They are real doers, who are making a difference in the lives of other people.
Another inspiring event in the midst of the war was the October graduation ceremony for some of our Bachelor of Applied Theology and Bachelor of Pastoral Ministry students. Despite the many war-time challenges, these graduates managed to complete all the program requirements and earn their degrees.
We ask you to continue to pray for Ukraine. The needs are many. Please pray for the seminary, as we do our best to train doers of God's word [not just hearers – James 1:25], and pray for OTS's student-doers, as they work hard to help people in need.